[IFComp 2015] Nowhere Near Single

Nowhere Near Single is a Twine work by kaleidofish.

Nowhere Near Single cover art by kaleidofish

A young woman new to the entertainment industry struggles with harmonizing her public pop star persona and her private polyamorous life. Warning for mildly graphic content.

You can find Nowhere Near Single here until the comp ends.

Review with spoilers after the cut.

The blurb sums up Nowhere Near Single pretty accurately. You are Jerri Benavides, the newest recruit to a pop-star-factory agency. As you try to launch your career, you also move in with your new girlfriend Sarai and subsequently become romantically involved with her other two girlfriends as well. Of course, it’s not easy to maintain three relationships, not to mention keeping the agency happy about your image.

I admit, I’ve enjoyed a relationship sim game or two in the past. I loved last year’s Creatures Such As We (link is to my review – not too many spoilers), and my husband and I had a great time a while back playing don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your storyNowhere Near Single had some interesting ideas about balancing multiple relationships, with people who are also balancing their relationships with each other. It’s an interesting premise.

I don’t feel like it wholly delivered, though. Most of this is how very linear the experience of playing was. The vast majority of the pages had no choice involved – sometimes a hypertext phrase or three in the body of the text that linked to a little more backstory, but often just the equivalent of a “Continue” button at the end of the page. In about an hour and a half of reading, I think I faced only about a dozen choices prior to the climactic scene. I’m no longer in the camp that “interactive fiction” only means parsers, but I could have done with some more interaction in this piece. Especially when the characters were acting in ways I found counterproductive*, I wanted to have more agency.

The writing of the piece was decent. The dialogue was sometimes stilted-feeling, but dialogue is hard to get feeling natural. I did encounter one bug, when I chose not to hook up with one of the characters but later the story behaved as though I had.

I also find the default Twine appearance uninspired**, and the atmosphere of the game could have been improved by more significant aesthetic changes than simply making the background pale green. The color scheme didn’t particularly say “you are a pop star dating three beautiful women” so much as “your aunt is coming over for dinner, so please get out the good tablecloth.”

In the end, this really just wasn’t my thing. It was too much straight-up fiction without enough interactive, and it’s not a story I probably would have spent the time to read without the bits of interactivity. It may be someone else’s thing, though, and if so, may they find it.

*Really, these women are not all that great at relationships! A game about people with no problems would be a super-dull game, of course. Still, I’m not sure how accurate a portrayal of polyamory this is. Spoilers ahoy: Though the others do wind up getting frustrated at the end of the story by Sarai’s dictatorial approach to relationships, where she makes loads of detailed rules for everyone else to follow, they go along with it for a heck of a long time. I also think Sarai is selfish and kind of an idiot for inviting the PC to move in with her and her girlfriend before the girlfriend has even met the PC. Some decisions can be made on whims – what flavor of ice cream to pick, for example, or even where to go on a road trip this weekend. Letting someone you hardly know move in with you, though, is not one of those decisions. If I were one of Sarai’s other girlfriends, I’d be super angry, not mildly annoyed for a little while.

**It reminds me of the Diaryland.com template I used in 1999 – somehow simple and dated-feeling at the same time. (Note: that is not my old Diaryland.com diary, which is long dead. It’s just a random diary I found with the same template. No commentary about that diaryist is intended. To be honest, I didn’t even read the entry.)

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